Airing this summer on Netflix, A Very Secret Service (Au service de la France), is a French comedy-drama series. Created by Jean-François Halin and produced by Gilles de Verdière, at moments seems to be indulging an American audience. The backdrop of a pre-politcally correct era permits our favorite stereotyping. The show caters to our isms about Germans, Slavic people, women, Africans, bureaucrats and best of all, the French. A Very Secret Service perfectly emulates the period while being absurd, stylish and a little sexy.
because it always rolls downhill…even for spies.
The main character, André Merlaux played by Hugo Becker, is training to be a spy. His job is the coolest, although he starts in an office, and he is, after all, the new guy. He doesn’t know how or when to answer the phone and he’s not prepared with the proper writing implement. Worse yet, he wears a suit that makes him look like a salesman instead of a spy. The sexy lady spy, Miss Clayborn played by Josephine de la Baume is his first ray of light. But while appearing to empathise with him when he’s down, she merely points out that he has entered the ladies room on accident. His other ray of light is his seamstress, Sophie played by Mathilde Warnier. She’s less vampy but still French.
This series plays with all aspects of bureaucratic culture. Viewers will be grinning if not laughing out loud at the frustrating guy working the front desk, the accountant fussing over reciepts and the nonesense that ensues due to the code of heirarchy. The cold war agenda is parodied, along with the French colonialization of Africa.The liasons to the African ambassadors force meetings at the local night club even though the Africans don’t drink. The Romanticising of the 1960’s as a whole is made ridiculous as charcters chain smoke and womanize. Throwing pointless workplace cocktail parties and shutting off important news in favor of jazzy beats adds to the humor. If you enjoy satire, mod style, the spy genre, and the 1960’s cold war era you will love A Very Secret Service.